msnbc.com
updated 3/13/2008 1:37:57 PM ET 2008-03-13T17:37:57

Should parents face criminal charges for leaving their kids alone in the car — even if it's for only a few minutes? One mom from a Chicago suburb was arrested after doing exactly that.

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Was it a necessary precaution — or an overreaction? Msnbc.com readers weigh in, including one who argues it's the latter.

"I do not think there is a single parent in this earth who does not leave his/her child alone for a moment," writes the Texan reader. "As long as the child is not in danger and the parent can see clearly that the child is not in any danger at all times, there is no reason why a parent should be penalized."

Read on for more responses.

I leave my 1-year-old son in my locked car without keys most weeks as I walk 35 feet into a glass door to pick up my daughters from their Christian school. As long as they're in sight and no keys are in the car to tempt a potential thief, I see no problem with it. That is for only a few minutes, of course. I appreciate what the officer was trying to do, however I feel he should have used a little more discretion in this situation.
— Travis, Owasso, Okla.

I was a restaurant manager when one of my employees who was taking out trash saw a baby sleeping in a car by itself. The car was parked in front of the building. The parents were inside where they could see the car. I still called the police. Not 911, just the police. And you know what? I was transferred to 911, that's how seriously police take it. Life with children is not convenient. Sometimes you have to delay your plans to do things safely.
— Toni, Calif.

I have left my two boys in the car alone before at a gas station, many times because I always park out front where I can see them. I have never parked where I couldn't see my car and no more than 2 or 3 minutes. I believe people over-exaggerate in today's world. We are turning our children into a bunch of spoiled, whining babies!
— Nikki, New Milford, Conn.

It's this kind of thing that makes parents so afraid. I know I am worried all the time that some little dicator of a "police officer" can decide I am a bad mother and permanently damage my children by arresting me and placing my kids in "protective" custody. I have heard from many suburban stay-at-home moms who are scared, just like me.
— Anonymous

Yes, I have left my child in the car. I have run into the dry cleaners, the store has windows all across the front and I could see her, I would always park right in front of the store, she was maybe in the car alone for 3 minutes tops. I think it is ridiculous to punish this woman, she never went into the store. Give her a break!
— Kane, Indianapolis

Good grief, I just left my two in a car next to the library while I dropped off books this morning in the outside book drop. It was locked and was always in my sight with my safety break on. Were my 4-year-old and my 18-month-old really at risk in those two minutes? Wouldn't it be more riskier to walk them across the parking lot? Regardless, I won't ever do it again. I certainly wouldn't want to be put in this poor mother's shoes.
— Anonymous

We just had two children die in our village under similar circumstances because of a car fire. The mother was only out of the car a few minutes, and that's all it took. She has to live with that for the rest of her life. I have actually done the same thing myself and been lucky enough that nothing ever happened.
— Anonymous

I needed to run in to see a friend who lived in an apartment building. I left my oldest daghter who was 8 at the time in charge of her siblings (6 1/2 and 5 1/2) also in the car. I came back and saw a police car parked right next to my car. I was sternly warned by the police not to repeat this after which they left. This happened at 11 a.m. in a very quiet and residential neighborhood. I made sure to lock the car, leave the window slightly open and take the car keys with me. This was a judgment call I made as a parent, similar to the call made by the mother in the article. As long as the car was always in her vision I don't think the child was in grave danger. The police acted correctly in questioning her but should never had taken it further.
— Eve, N.Y.

I have left my 2-year-old in the car, locked the doors (not when its hot) at the ATM drive-up. My car has been no more than 10 feet from me and both my son and myself can see each other. I live in a very suburban community and felt that I had not put his life in danger.
— Anonymous, Trabuco Canyon, Calif.

What are you supposed to do while you're pumping gas. Are you supposed to hold your baby while you're at the pump or just running in to slam money down on the counter? Especially here in Illinois with these massive snow storms. That's ridiculous!
— C., Island Lake, Ill.

I do not think there is a single parent in this earth who does not leave his/her child alone for a moment. Sometimes we quickly have to get out of the car to go to an ATM or grab something from a store, and we leave a child alone for a few minutes to get this errand done. The issue is the length of time and also whether the child is within a parent's view. As long as the child is not in danger and the parent can see clearly that the child is not in any danger at all times, there is no reason why a parent should be penalized.
— L, Texas

She sounds like a good mom who probably didn't make the best decision. It's hard to get around with three kids and make everyone happy. Nobody is perfect and keeping a 2-year-old sleeping child asleep so that she can spend time with the other two girls seemed to be a good idea at the time. I think jail is over the top — why take a loving mother away from her kids  and torment her children? There are plenty of people who physically and mentally abuse their children and get away with it. The police officers should be going after real criminals, not this woman.
— Alana, N.Y.

I personally have never left my child alone in the car. However, I do think this is extreme. I do not believe the child was in danger and was safer in the car. I think this is a case of someone taking their authority a little too far.
— Tami, Farmington, Minn.

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